Coop, Wade reunite, but Brooks rules 1993 ALL-STAR GAME July 13 Baltimore


I'm hot, you're hot, and the All-Star Game in Baltimore is very, very hot. Oriole Park is the hot ballpark in the hot baseball city and we hear that $60 tickets are getting four figures on the open market.

In this spirit of heat, we pause today to talk about the hot corner. Third base. Baltimore is where modern third-base play was invented in the 1960s by Brooks Robinson. Third base tonight will be the hot spot for citizens of Red Sox Nation.

Wade Boggs and Scott Cooper have been in one another's face for the better part of five years and they'll be teammates again in this 64th All-Star Game.

Boggs and Cooper cannot get away from one another. Boggs first got a look at the kid in 1989 when Cooper was invited to big-league spring training camp. Always Boggs was the incumbent. Always, Cooper was waiting on the bench, or at Pawtucket.

"When I first met him, the Margo [Adams] thing was going on and he was kind of shell-shocked," said Cooper. "He'd offer a few tips as to where to play different guys. He didn't say much. The last day last year he walked up to me and said, 'Keep swinging the bat, you're going to be a heck of a hitter.' "

Last winter, the torch was passed when Boggs was allowed to walk away to the Yankees. Wade's World became Coop's Corner.

We thought that was it. But now they're together again.

"I can't get away from backing up Wade Boggs," said Cooper.

Boggs is hitting .292 with two homers and 36 RBI. Cooper is at .282 with six homers and 36 RBI. Boggs made the team on the strength of inertia. Incumbents are difficult to displace when fans do the voting. If Robinson had been on the ballot this year, no doubt he'd have been elected the AL starter at third.

Cooper is a beneficiary of the antiquated rule that states that each team must have at least one representative in the game. How else can we explain that Cooper is here and Texas' Dean Palmer (.238, 21 homers, 65 RBI) is not?

It's not Cooper's fault. He's had an OK first half and he's glad to be here. Like Boggs, he finished the first half of the season on the West Coast and took a red-eye to Baltimore.

Boggs and Cooper did not share transportation for the 50-mile drive from Dulles to downtown Baltimore. Cooper got into a cab by himself and spent $80.

This is Boggs' ninth straight All-Star Game, his seventh straight start. In 1987, he took over as the AL's best third baseman. He was preceded by George Brett, who was preceded by Brooks.

Unless you have lived in Baltimore there is no way to truly appreciate and understand what Brooks is to Baltimore. When Reggie Jackson said, "They'd name a candy bar after me if I played in New York," Gordon Beard of Baltimore Associated Press said, "In Baltimore, people name their children after Brooks."

And they did.

Brooks wears the "greatest ever" label. He won 16 Gold Gloves and appeared in 18 All-Star Games. When the names of the greatest third basemen are cited, nobody in Baltimore mentions anybody other than Brooks Robinson. Mike Schmidt, he of the 500 homers and multiple Gold Gloves, is not a factor.

"I put Schmidt up there at the top," Robinson said after starting a few double plays in yesterday's old-timers' game. "The best is whoever you want it to be. A writer kept asking me one time who was better -- me or Schmidt. Finally I told him that Pie Traynor was the best, then Eddie Mathews, then me, then Schmidt was fourth."

Robinson has only seen Cooper twice.

"I like the way he swings the bat," said the great one. "He's going to be a good one. But I haven't seen much of him. And Boggs has never really gotten recognition for his glove. But I like the way he plays third base."

Cooper has only a vague memory of Robinson. Boggs remembers Robinson dominating the 1970 World Series.

"The best third baseman ever? Brooks Robinson," Boggs said without hesitation.

Tonight the American League gives you Wade Boggs and Scott Cooper, the heirs to Brooks' throne, and the past and present Red Sox third basemen. After the game, they'll no doubt go their separate ways -- and wind up at adjacent tables at some restaurant in downtown Baltimore.

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